Putting the Neighbor Back in the Neighborhood Center

Pope Francis reminds us that “Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities or programs of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism but above all an attentiveness which considers the other in a certain sense as ‘one with ourselves’.” This “loving attentiveness” at times can be overlooked in the often overwhelming “programs of assistance”, provided by organizations like Catholic Charities. It is easy to get lost in the task rather than focus on the person. Separating those receiving services and those providing them can easily occur without attentiveness, further marginalizing individuals who are in desperate need of acceptance and support.
The Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center intends to be a place where all people feel welcomed and valued. With that in mind, we look for ways in which we can connect the lives of our staff and volunteers to persons receiving services. One effort we have undertaken is by intentionally speaking of all visitors to the Center as “neighbors”. This simple adjustment in vocabulary is not radical by any means. It is a modest change that hopefully leads to a revolution in mindset and action—one in which we realize the dignity of every person who spends time with us at the Center. When we speak with love, we hope to ultimately act with love.
Pope Francis asks us to go further than just relating to the poor with our kindness and good deeds. He dreams of a “church that IS poor and for the poor”. Catholic Charities provides a unique space for that message to be carried out. We are not here to only provide services or give volunteers something to do with their free time. Instead, we need to be a space where people come together and realize that the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors are so interconnected to our own lives that their suffering is our suffering, their hopes our hopes, and their triumphs should be celebrated by us all. We hope that as a community of faith, you continue supporting us through your prayers and your donations. We also ask that you stop by and share meal with our neighbors, bring up ideas and insights to our staff, and join alongside us as we work toward creating the kind of community that genuinely welcomes and values the lives of every neighbor in need.

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